Red Clydeside: A history of the labour movement in Glasgow 1910-1932


The Means Test Scandal - A Scathing Exposure, 1929-1933

by David Kirkwood

image from Red Clydeside collection

This pamphlet contains a transcript of a speech delivered by David Kirkwood MP, which condemns the introduction of the 'means test' by the British government.

During the depression of the 1930s, unemployment payments were attended by harsh and humiliating surveillance as 'means test' inspectors were empowered to enter homes and pry into the circumstances (and even the cooking pots) of the unemployed to ensure that their dependence upon relief was genuine and total.

The Labour Party would in the long run benefit from the events of the depression years, although initially voters were driven into the arms of the Conservatives. The memory of the means test became a great national folk-myth from which the Labour Party was able to draw electoral advantage for decades afterwards.

Source: Gallacher Memorial Library, Glasgow Caledonian University Special Collections and Archives